Turkey (MNN) — One year after the Turkish military’s failed coup that killed nearly 250 people, democracy in Turkey is on the brink of extinction.
Following the coordinated attack by a faction of the Turkish military to overthrow president Recep Tayyip Erdogan last July, including the bombing of parliament, Erdogan declared a state of emergency which gives him sweeping executive powers.
A referendum win in April gave Erdogan the ability to rule by decree from 2019 onward, should he win the election that year. Erdogan has also extended the state of emergency multiple times, granting him nearly uncontested power until the next election.
Critics say Erdogan is using the state of emergency to silence any opposing ideologies. About 150,000 have been fired or suspended from their jobs in the civil service, while more than 50,000 have been detained on suspicion of being linked to the opposition. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, nearly 100 journalists have been detained, while multiple political and human rights group leaders have been jailed.
We spoke with Bassma Dabbour, director of leadership development for Voice of the Martyrs Canada, for some context.
“Turkey was going through an amazing time of democracy under President [Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk, who brought secular state…in a Muslim context, which was kind of very innovative,” Dabbour says. “But with the election of President Erdogan, Islam [came back as] the religion of the state and had more influence in democracy and regulations and politics.”
Turkey is a key country; its impact extends even to the West as it acts as a door for refugees to travel between the Middle East and Europe. It’s also a prime route for terrorists.
“From what I read and hear as well, there are a lot of Arab countries that don’t need visas to travel to Turkey,” Dabbour says. “For instance, in Tunisia, there are a lot of jihadi young men being recruited from Libya and Tunisia and Algeria that travel to Turkey and from there, they go to Syria and Iraq.”
Dabbour says that while it’s never been easy to enter Turkey, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for ministries to operate within the country. Yet despite this increased pressure, she says the Church is flourishing.
“For those in ministry, we know that a lot of people do have to keep a very low profile working in Turkey,” Dabbour says. “It’s important to be aware of these, and to know what you have to reveal about the work you’re doing and what you have to keep confidential for the security of the people you’re serving on the ground.”
It’s a tense situation, especially for believers. Dabbour asks that you pray the hardships Christians face would strengthen their faith.
“I think it’s important to pray for democracy,” Dabbour says. “I think it’s important to pray for the Turkish people in general, no matter what their background is, religious or political affiliation, for peace. Also, pray for the Church to be strengthened, to have courage.
“Persecution does not necessarily lead to survival. Many cases in history we’ve seen that persecution can kill the Church. But what we’re seeing right now in Turkey happening is people are coming to Christ, hundreds on a daily basis. There is a great harvest taking place. Let’s pray for more workers, for boldness, and for protection.”